Older adults using sites to reconnect with past friends, bridge generational gaps
Youth today are no longer alone in reconnecting with friends, messaging, posting pictures or sharing videos in the virtual world of social media today.
Once thought to be a frontier pioneered and dominated by the younger generations, social media is now finding its way on to the computer screens of many older adults.
Findings from the Pew Research Institute show that “social networking use among internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88 percent – from 25 percent to 47 percent” between April 2009 and May 2010. The research also found that the percentage of those 65 and older using social media grew from 13 percent to 26 percent during that same stretch.
Of users 50-64, 20 percent say they visit social media sites on a daily basis, compared to 10 percent a year earlier. For those 65 and older, 13 percent visit a social media site daily, which is up from 4 percent in 2009.
“Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,” Mary Madden, the study’s author, said. “Email is still the primary way that older users remain in contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications.”
What are the primary social media sites?
The most popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Facebook allows users to create personal profiles, upload pictures, and message other users. The site, developed by Mark Zuckerberg, launched in February of 2004 and originated as essentially an online yearbook at Harvard University. Facebook had 500 million active users through July 2010.
Twitter is a “microblogging” site that enables users to post messages, or tweets, less than 140 characters. Twitter has proved to be an invaluable communication tool for consumers, businesses and for breaking news.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Users can post employment history, link with other users, and even post recommendations on other users’ profiles.
How are seniors using social media?
Email remains the most common internet activity among seniors, followed by news gathering. But social media use is increasing for three main reasons:
- Seniors are reconnecting with past friends and family. Research indicates that 64 percent of social media users ages 50 and older have sought information about a person from their past. According to the Pew Research Institute “these renewed connections can provide a powerful support network when people near retirement or embark on a new career.”
- Seniors are seeking support. Many older adults live with chronic diseases or have experienced significant life changes. The Pew Research Institute said that blogging and online health discussions are the two most commons activities for those seeking support.
- Seniors use social media to bridge generational gaps. As the Pew Research Institute noted: “There are few spaces – online or offline – where tweens, teens, sandwich generation members, grandparents, friends and neighbors regularly intersect and communicate across the same network.”
Learning Social Media Resources
How to use Twitter:
How to use Facebook:
How to use LinkedIn: